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The Blacklist: What's the Inspiration for All of Red's Crazy Adventures?

Like that story about the blind Mexican fish

Liz Raftery

"It may be hard for you to imagine, but I once had a normal life," The Blacklist's Red Reddington (James Spader) told Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) way back in Season 2. But based on some of the yarns the "Concierge of Crime" has spun over the course of nearly five seasons, that seems dubious at best.

TV Guide caught up with Blacklist creator Jon Bokenkamp and executive producer John Fox to find out how they come up with all those crazy anecdotes Reddington shares about his past.

"A lot of it's Googling places that would be hard for Spader to say," Bokenkamp admits, "and trying to find foods that would be weird to watch him describe and delight in. Oftentimes we just start with a sentence which is like, 'I was once off the coast of such and such ... '[and spitball from there]."

The Blacklist: Whose Bones Are Those?

But some of them are more grounded in reality, inspired by experiences the writers and producers have had in real life. One story, about blind fish from Mexico, was inspired by Fox taking his children on excursions to the L.A. Zoo when they were little. Write what you know, right?

"He told a story once about the most important $20 he ever made," Fox says. "I'd had a summer job, and I wanted to quit, and my father wouldn't let me quit. Then at the end, the guy gave me a tip of $20. ... That was the most valuable $20 I ever made. So we had Spader say that."

Check out the video to see a sampling of the wacky (and sometimes true!) adventures Red has had over the years.

The Blacklist returns with new episodes in January, airing on Wednesdays at 8/7c on NBC.